Weekend At Bernie's Almost Seemed 'Too Funny' While It Was Being Filmed

Ridiculously absurd. Cartoonish. Offensive, maybe? Those are just a few words to describe "Weekend at Bernie's," the 1989 dark comedy about two young professionals –

Larry (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard (Jonathan Silverman) — who drag their dead boss' corpse around an island to avoid being taken out by a hitman. Even some of the movie's cast members thought the idea was asinine. But it appears their attitudes changed when they started filming the movie, according to Andrew McCarthy's recollections (via The Hollywood Reporter):

"We thought it was funny s*** as we were doing it ... There's the old saying, 'If it's funny to you on set, it ain't going to be funny on screen,' but we found it really f****** funny. We loved Bernie, and we just wanted to do more s*** to him. So a lot of the s*** we just thought of on set. I love 'Bernie's.' I think it's great."

McCarthy talks more about "Weekend at Bernie's" and his life in his memoir, "Brat: An '80s Story," which he spoke to /Film about earlier this year. I imagine working on the cult classic have to be some of the most fun he ever had; that fact they he got to be creative and spontaneously make up silly things to do to Bernie (Terry Kiser) is the cherry on top. Kiser, however, wasn't just dead weight that everyone got to play in the sand with, take bodysurfing, and throw off a balcony. He had a little fun himself.  

Terry Kiser tried to make his co-stars break character

Terry Kiser is among the cast members who were unmoved by "Weekend at Bernie's" at first. "I thought, 'Well, this is a one-trick pony,'" he admitted to Mel Magazine in 2020. He didn't know it at the time, but he would be forced to come up with another trick for the pony. 

In the first act, Kiser plays the top brass at a New York City insurance agency who is still very much alive and steals money from his own company. Fearful that Larry and Richard will uncover his dirty deeds, he sets them up to be murdered by the mob at his Hampton Island beach house. But he fools around with the mob boss' girlfriend and, in return, the mobster orders the hit on Bernie instead. 

Filming moved to North Carolina for the Hampton Island scenes. There, Kiser realized he had no idea how to play a stiff. He saw the raw footage of his first scenes and thought, "No, it's not funny. He's just dead  —  it's not funny-dead." I imagine his portrayal was as ghoulish as the prank that possibly inspired the movie. To come up with a way to act "funny-dead," Kiser stayed up in his hotel working on a solution. 

"I went back to Acting 101: 'What is this guy trying to do? Well, he's goofing on these guys.' So I decided I'm just going to goof on them all through the whole movie and see if I can break these guys up."

Around 3 a.m., he came up with the sly smirk Dead Bernie wears throughout the movie. The first time Kiser did it on set, he broke everyone into laughter: his fellow actors, the crew ... everyone. And that's when he knew the movie was going to be funny.